Dodd: Reject "Celebrity" Candidates

Eric Fralick, of Ames, Iowa, left, gets a booked sign by Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Kevin Sanders)
Democratic presidential hopeful Chris Dodd warned activists on Wednesday that if they succumb to "celebrity" candidates the state will risk losing its treasured spot at the beginning of the presidential nominating season.

Instead, Dodd said, the tradition of rewarding candidates who doggedly seek support from individual Iowans is the key to the state's leadoff precinct caucuses.

"If this process becomes one where this state only chooses candidates based on celebrity and wealth, you'll have a short run as a caucus state," Dodd said. "This is no difference than California and Michigan and Florida. People look to Iowans because you've always done this more deliberately."

Dodd, a senator from Connecticut, made his case to about 40 people at public library as he continues his campaign, meeting with small groups of people and seeking to persuade voters one at a time that he brings the experience the party needs to win back the White House.

In this election cycle, money and attention have been focused on big-name candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who draw hundreds to their campaign rallies and have raised immense amounts of money.

Critics of the role that Iowa and New Hampshire play in the nominating process say the states are tiny and unrepresentative of the nation as a whole. Backers say the two states are virtually the only place where presidential candidates are forced to deal with voters at the grassroots level.

Obama and Clinton have dominated in money and attention, and that's dangerous for the caucuses, Dodd said.

"You actually have sent forth candidates who were not the first choice coming in, you've made choices based not only on polls but who ought to win," he said.

Dodd said his 26 years in the Senate gives him a far greater background and he offered a thinly veiled critique of Obama, who is in his first Senate term.

"The idea that you can come in here with marginal experience and talk about things in a symbolic way is dangerous," Dodd said. "This is the only job in America where prior references are not required. We flirt with the idea that someone who has never done this before would be the ideal choice."

Dodd used Wednesday's events as an example. Obama was in the eastern part of the state trotting out a plan for expanded national service. Dodd, who served in the Peace Corps and the Army, said he offered a far more sweeping plan last summer.

"I'm delighted that others are talking about it, but I've made it the centerpiece of my campaign," Dodd said.

He also said Democrats must attract independent and moderate Republicans to win the election.

"In the absence of that, this will be a very difficult race to win," he said.